Whoever said you can have too much of a good thing has never been to Baconfest Chicago. When it began in the Fall of 2009 as a modest 10-chef event with 75 paid guests, it was pretty clear that Baconfest was a great idea, with the only problem being that the first incarnation could not even begin to satiate the demand out there. At each incarnation since, the event has only gotten bigger and better, and this year continued the trend.
The format of Baconfest is actually pretty simple. Chefs who want to participate are asked to come up with 1000 potions of a creative and delicious dish that includes one of the more versatile proteins around. People who want to eat that food buy tickets and descend on the UIC Forum to enjoy one of the more wonderfully gluttonous days of their lives. This year, about 110 chefs answered the call for participants and about 3000 diners managed to snag tickets (95% of which were gone within 30 minutes while the rest trickled out for a few more hours thanks to transaction snafus). Tickets were actually for one of two sessions and each chef committed to either the afternoon or evening portion of the event.
It's difficult to overstate the enthusiasm for the event. From primary sponsor Nueske's donation of over 4000 pounds of bacon to the 90 chefs who accepted the offer of free pork belly to the 20 or so chefs who made their own bacon to the particularly eager eaters who began lining up over an hour before the doors opened, there's no doubt Baconfest has tapped into something special. And while there are a few curmudgeonly culinary contrarians who bemoan the spectacle, I think the over-the-top nature of the event is part of the fun. Well, that and the fact there was an unlimited amount of kick-ass food, more than enough bacon themed booze, an impressive array of bacon related paraphernalia, and $50,000 raised for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. I managed to survive both sessions and sample offerings from 92 chefs. Click on the slideshow to see some of my favorites.